Orthopraxy, Living Custom And The Non Nordic Born Heathen


In Sweden Heathenry is sometimes referred to as “en levande sed” (“a living custom).

I have often emphasized how Nordic cultures, having only been officially Christian for less than a 1000 years, are ripe with Heathenry, how our hollidays and celebrations (perhaps especially Yule and Midsummer), our names and folklore and even our Christianity, not to mention our mentality is colored by it.

This is often taken up when Scandinavians are irritated by some form of American or other non Nordic Heathenry that takes on forms that feels very incompatible to our ways to us.

I would like to make clear that this is usually not a sentiment towards the majority of American Heathenry.

One of the most creative (in every sense of the word) kindreds i know off is the “Jotun Bane Kindred” who have taken orthopraxy and put it in a place that feels like exactly the point with it (they have a community spirit that is incedible by any standards as far as i can see).

Now, ortghopraxy does not only have to do with cult acts, blots and worship of the Divine, or even with virtues and conduct, but, as i´m sure practitioners of Romuva (Lithuanian Paganism),  Suomenusko (Finnish Paganism)

and many other indigenos customs would agree , folklore and tradition as a whole plays a big role. Dances, songs, sayings, all of it is a part of the custom.

So, now i was thinking i should turn my whole argument on its head (or at least so it might seem at a quick glanze).

Most Heathens and Pagans i know off internationally seem to celebrate Christmas, Thanksgiving and so on, in part to be with their (extended) families, partly to be part of community as a whole and because it feels nice.

Many might privately see the celebration in another light than those around them (“we sit at the same table, we  celebrate together but as you comemorate the birth of Jesus, i give thanks to Saturn”).

Now, imagine if you will (and this probably happens) a group of Americans, gathering at a house or in a grove at Veterans Day and / or 4:th of July, giving blot to Odin and thanks for victory, freedom and the rights they enjoy. Following with a blot to the ancestors who made this possable and boasting about relatives and ancestors that made this possable and perhaps giving vows to deserve this gift to the best of their abilites.

It would look similar to the Sigr blot (Victory blot at spring), but be connected to culture, history and nationality close to the participants and probably striking a chord.

One might say that this is a new invention but actually it is MORE traditional than dressing up in viking age clothes (wich is not “wrong”).

After all, festivals and cultic celebrations where always connected to local cicumstances.

Things where not done in Iceland as they where in Sweden.

These celebrations are secular in nature and thus highly adaptable.

A Swedish Christmas table would make sense to someone living in Canada or Alaska (from a nutrition / survival standpoint) in another way than it would to a Heathen in Hawaii or Northern Australia.

Why stuff your face with fat, alcohol (well, there´s always a reason for mead) and slaughter a lot of animals at the hottest part of the year?

And why give thanks to Freyr for grain that we recieved in the North (not that we mind   😉   )?

I have eaten bananas at Christmas in Africa. In my fathers homeland a blot of chicken, beans, bread, rice and fish would make sense as well as a strong cult for Njordr and Aegir (since it is a country of islands with much fishing and marine culture) for a Heathen.

It is not a matter of abandoning traditional cult acts or their ingredients (pigs and pork still has meaning symbolically for instance). Neither is it a matter of declaring it “wrong” to dress in viking age clothes, eating traditional Swedish smorgosboard or wearing Noerwiegian folk costume ( to celebrate heritage or simply because one likes it for that matter).

Rather, it is a matter of bringing the orthoprax thought into the society , place and time in wich you live.

You have blessings from the Gods to give thanks for unique to your life and region as well as ancestors closer than the vikings, but no less heroic, that ensured that you could enjoy those gifts.

I think the LEAST you owe those that died (or even survived) 9 / 11, or WWI and WWII is a beer and some boasting.

Your tribal elders  and ancestors that built the country you live in, dont they deserve a mention and a bit of respect?

Your ancestors that fought in the ghetto, died in camps, defended the Alamo, where in the French resistance where imprisoned at Robben Island feels natural as guests by the Hof to me (and they would to pre Christian Norse people too).

The Vaettir of your lands, unique to them, deserve consideration, blot  and respect. The land vaettir of Minnesota are the land vaettir of Minnesota, the vaettir of Manitoba are the vaettir of Manitoba.

The advice and help from these mights are closer to you too (the vaettir being of your region and your close ancestors being closer to your own circumstances).

In Scandinavia Heathenry, like folklore in general differs by region.It always did (there are clear attestations) and probably always will.

The orthoprax idea is to bond YOUR life to the divine, not sombody elses.

This is not new, it is the very nature of the beast.

The orthoprax mindset


I might be feeding you out of some self interest.

I might be giving you food by mistake.

Perhaps i simply dont like that dish myself.

Regardless of which…..your stomach gets as full as if i harboured some altruistic goal.

Would you prefer someone who lectures you or steals your freedom out of “love” and “for your own good” or someone who gives you a blanket when you´re cold for any reason, a selfish one included?

The Custom


My religion and the rest of my culture are baked together.

It is orthoprax and thus:

Chopping wood

Prayer

The way i behave towards you

are just as much part of the custom. Neither requires faith or belief beyond what it takes to simply do it. There is no difference between “spiritual” and “mundane”.

Clearing Up Misconceptions that New Heathens May Have


New Heathens almost always encounter other Heathens on-line first, prior to meeting actual Heathens face-to-face in real life. Based on the behavior of many of the Heathens you encounter on-line, it would be easy to falsely conclude that all heathens are angry, mean people who like to argue and belittle other people. One might mistakenly conclude that the biggest problem facing Heathenry are the “hoards and hoards of racist” people calling themselves Heathen. One might start to incorrectly believe that Heathernry can take place on the internet. One might falsely conclude that the Prose and Poetic Edda are basically the Heathen Bible. One might sadly conclude that there is only one-true-way within Heathenry, and we’re debating and working hard to develop and define that one-true-way.

As easy as it would be to come to these conclusions, all of these conclusions would be essentially false.

REAL HEATHENS ARE A GENEROUS AND HOSPITABLE PEOPLE

Our Heathen ancestors put great important on their own families and their own local communities. But they held generosity and hospitality as important strengths of a man’s character. A man who knew how to be a generous host, and how to treat his guests well, would earn himself great respect among his peers.

Modern Heathens focus on their families and their kindred, living in Frith and cooperation within their trusted Innangarth, or trusted inner circle. While focus closely on family, kindred, and friends, they also understand the importance of extending hospitality to heathens traveling through or visiting their local area or kindred.

A man’s reputation, or Gefrain, is based on his deeds, how much he accomplishes, his generosity, his hospitality, and his honor. There is nothing about Asatru or Heathenry that encourages meaningless anger or pointless confrontations. But,on-line Heathenry is rife with keyboard cowboys that seem to delight in tearing other people down, name-calling, and being as confrontational as possible. This says much more about the nature of the internet and the nature of these people, than it has to do with Heathenry itself.

THE VAST MAJORITY OF HEATHENS ARE PROUD OF THEIR ANCESTORS

Heathens are proud of their history, their culture, and their ancestors. We feel that we share a connection with our ancestors by blood, by culture, and by Orlog, a part of the Heathen soul that is passed from parent to child. This pride is a positive pride, and does not involve hatred for other cultures or a need to tear other cultures down in favor of our own.

Some mistake this positive pride as somehow being “racist.” You’ll find that most “Folkish” Heathens don’t even use the word “Race,” in reference to their beliefs…because pride in one’s ancestors is not about “Race.” This on-going “racist” debate and name-calling is decades old within Heathenry, and has gotten us no where. It is an enormous distraction from anything constructive and positive. It should be noted, that this “racist” debate, is almost exclusively something that takes place on-line. It is an internet phenomenon, and utterly pointless.

Racism is not specifically a Heathen problem. Racism is not the problem of any one particular group. There are Racists within every religion. Christian Racists. Muslim Racists. Jewish Racists. Hindu Racists. Even Wiccan Racists.

Jotun’s Bane Kindred has been to scores of face-to-face heathen gatherings. The topic of “Race” or “Racism” never comes up at these gatherings, and is a complete non-issue within real Heathenry. It is only on-line that self-appointed “crusaders,” harp on this topic constantly. In so doing, they give the issue more time and attention that it deserves. Listening to these proverbial “Chicken Littles” on-line, one would think that Racism was a major problem within Heathenry…and that the sky is falling. I doubt they realize it, but their constant feeding and attention of this non-issue, gives this non-existent internet bogey-man a life of its own.

Rather than running about telling people what we aren’t, we should be focusing our time on telling people who we are, and why. We should explain why we honor our ancestors, and how important they are to us. What few “racist” Heathens there are, cease to have any real impact when we ignore and shun them as a topic, and focus our time and energy on moving forward.

REAL HEATHENRY TAKES PLACE FACE-TO-FACE

Real Heathenry is about community, gathering as a people, shaking a man or woman’s hand, looking them in the eye, hearing their voice, telling stories, getting to know each other. Its letting your kids play together. Letting your spouses get to know each other. Its about laughing at dumb jokes, and telling stories from your life. Its about mingling Wyrd…and taking the measure of another person, and finding them of worth.

Real Heathenry is about actually DOING something. Reading, scholarship, communication, discussing various beliefs, and even debating approaches to our Folkway are important. But, we are our deeds. What have you done? What are you doing? What will you do?

Starting, growing, and maintaining kindreds is a way of bringing Heathenry home. You build close-knit bonds of Frith with other Heathens that then become part of your Innangarth, or trusted inner circle. Gathering with other Heathens and living in Frith with them, allows for collective Luck to be built, and for great things to be accomplished. Our children get to know and play with other Heathen children. And we establish Heathen communities that draw other members of our Folk home to their ancestral Folkway.

These things can only happen face-to-face. We should never mistake internet interactions and acquaintances as “real.” They are just pixels on a screen, and these pixels flicker out when the machine is unplugged.

THE POETIC EDDA AND PROSE EDDA ARE HISTORICAL TEXTS

The Poetic Edda and Prose Edda are both historical texts, written by men. Both texts were actually written down by Christian men. The Poetic Edda was an attempt by Christians to record in writing the old poetry of their oral storytelling culture. The Poetic Edda was written by Snori Sturleson in order to preserve enough knowledge about Norse mythology and the meanings of poetic kennings, to preserve the poetry forms of the North. Heathens understand that these books are not “the word” of our Gods.

We include the Poetic Edda and Prose Edda among our Lore, a collection of primary sources we look to for information about the religion, ways, and world-view of our ancestors. We also include among this Lore, the Icelandic Sagas, Beowulf, and other contemporary writings of the time. But none of these books are “scripture.”

But you will encounter Heathens that read the poetry recorded in the Poetic Edda as scripture. They will quote it, and interpret it as literal truth, without any critical thought as to how and when they were recorded, and by whom. They quote information in the Prose Edda, as if what Snori Sturleson wrote is exactly what all Heathens thorughout history believed of our Gods and Goddesses, and the Nine Worlds. Yes, information from both the Poetic and Prose Eddas is important and well worth considering. But both sources are the works of men, and not the works of our Gods.

Other religions have their Holy Books, which they proclaim are the direct “Word” of their god. But our Heathen ancestors did not have a written tradition, nor a holy book. And modern Heathens also do not have a holy book.

TRIBAL VARIANCES ARE ACKNOWLEDGED AND EXPECTED

The ways of our Ancestors varied greatly from tribe to tribe, location to location, century to century, and even among various levels of society. The same situation exists today within modern Heathenry. There was no “one-true-way” among our ancestors and there is no “one-true-way among modern Heathens. We live in different regions, we have different backgrounds and upbringings, we have different life experiences, different personalities, different interests, and different ways of interpreting things we read and learn.

One of the great strengths of grassroots, local kindred-based, tribal heathenry is the understanding among various tribes that they can have unity of purpose and work together, without having unified beliefs or practices.

But, you will encounter Asatruars and Heathens who feel they are right, and everyone else is dreadfully wrong. Heathens who believe that the goal of the Reconstruction of our ancestral Folkway, is to rediscover the “one-true-way” of our ancestors. These Asatruars and Heathens debate angrily over details, denigrating and insulting all those that do things differently than they do, and they seem completely oblivious to the fact that the never was “one-true-way” of Heathenry.

When you look at the behavior of these elitists who insist there was one-true-way, and that they specifically are the ones that have found it, and that everyone else is wrong…does it not feel eerily familiar of the desert faiths, with their one-true-way?

Our ancestors did not act in this way, and I’m always amazed when people who claim to be the most well-read and learned among us, act in a way that is so contrary to how our ancestors would have approached their own ancestral Folkway.

BEST WAY TO CLEAR UP MISCONCEPTIONS

The best way to clear up these internet-oriented misconceptions is to meet or gather with other heathens face-to-face.  If there is a kindred or tribe within traveling distance of where you live, arranged to visit them or attend one of their meetings.  If there is no kindred or tribe within traveling distance, do some research on Heathen Gatherings…and attend one.  There is nothing like meeting with or gathering with other heathens, to give you better insight into the reality of Heathenry…rather than what lurks in the internet shadows.

Mark Ludwig Stinson

Jotun’s Bane Kindred

Temple of Our Heathen Gods

http://www.heathengods.com/

(Source: facebook.com)